As­ton Martin test driver Chris Good­win re­veals what it takes to set up a new car such as the 003


‘THERE IS A SET OF FACES THAT I HAVE IN THE BACK of my mind,’ says Chris Good­win. This might sound like day one, ses­sion one on a psy­chi­a­trist’s couch, but As­ton Martin’s ex­pert high-per­for­mance test driver is ac­tu­ally talk­ing about how he crafts a car. He has been with the com­pany just over a year now (he was pre­vi­ously at McLaren – his fi­nal cars there were the Senna and the 600LT) work­ing flat-out on the Valkyrie, em­bed­ded within Red Bull in Mil­ton Keynes, spend­ing long days on the sim­u­la­tor.

But to­day we’re chat­ting about the 003 and I’m keen to know how he goes about set­ting up a new car, or in As­ton’s case a whole new range of cars. With so many dy­namic direc­tions he could take, surely it would be easy to let per­sonal pref­er­ence take over? That’s where the faces come in. ‘I’ve got a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in this area now and I’ve be­come per­son­ally very fa­mil­iar with the cus­tomer base,’ ex­plains Good­win. ‘I can re­call the con­ver­sa­tions about cars with peo­ple who have said, “It was amaz­ing when you did this,” or “If only you could have done that.”’

The fiz­zogs that he has in mind, then, are real peo­ple with real preference­s and, pre­sum­ably, wide-rang­ing lev­els of abil­ity be­hind the wheel. And this is what helps him frame some of the de­vel­op­ment. The log­i­cal next line of ques­tion­ing, then, is to won­der if it ever feels like he’s try­ing to please too many peo­ple, but as he points out, while there is an older gen­er­a­tion of cars where a Sport but­ton re­ally doesn’t make much dif­fer­ence, ‘you can cre­ate two or three cars in one with the cur­rent tech’, thereby ca­ter­ing for a much broader clien­tele.

Good­win also points out that he has con­fi­dence in not just what the cus­tomers will want but what As­ton Martin is try­ing to achieve. Through spend­ing a lot of time in As­ton’s core cars (Vantage, DB11, DBS, etc), work­ing with As­ton Martin Rac­ing and hav­ing ‘lots of cups of cof­fee with Matt Becker’ (As­ton’s chief en­gi­neer) over the last 12 months, he has got ‘a good feel for the com­pany’. And when you feel com­fort­able with the broader el­e­ments of what a com­pany is try­ing to achieve, you can be that much more con­fi­dent in the di­rec­tion you plan to go while de­vel­op­ing a car.

Of course, with so much of the technology be­ing new to cars, let alone As­ton Martin, it must be tricky to de­velop. I’m in­trigued, for ex­am­ple, how he will ap­proach the new FlexFoil aero­dy­nam­ics. But Good­win seems un­fazed, draw­ing com­par­isons with the cut­ting-edge ac­tive sus­pen­sion on the Valkyrie. Put sim­ply, ‘you ap­ply ba­sic physics prin­ci­ples, and then you sim­u­late it,’ he says. ‘Yes, you might have to invent some­thing rather than just fet­tle ex­ist­ing off-the-shelf tech, but that’s what drives me. I like that it’s tax­ing on the brain.’ And of course, as Good­win is quick to say, he works with the sort of in­cred­i­bly clever peo­ple at Red Bull Ad­vanced Technologi­es that would tax al­most anyone else.

As with the Valkyrie, the sim­u­la­tor will clearly play an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant role in de­vel­op­ing the 003, but one of the trick­i­est parts will be when they trans­late the car across from the vir­tual to the real world. Good­win ex­plains that some­where such as Mill­brook – which would be a very con­ve­nient test fa­cil­ity to use in the UK – was built in the ’60s. It wasn’t de­signed with some­thing as fast as the 003 in mind. Even us­ing the big­ger Euro­pean prov­ing grounds such as Nardò in Italy (opened in ’75) and Idi­ada in Spain (rib­bon cut in ’71) you have to be quite spe­cific about where you go for cer­tain bits of test­ing.

But again this is where Good­win’s ex­pe­ri­ence pays div­i­dends. Just as he has a set of faces, so he seems to have a mental scrap­book of the places where he wants to put the 003 through its paces. He knows ex­actly the up­hill hair­pin, the spe­cific mo­tor­way ex­pan­sion joints, the per­fect fifth-gear sweeper, the ideal jumps, lumps and com­pres­sions that will test the 003. Af­ter he’s fin­ished with As­ton Martin’s mid-en­gined su­per­cars, per­haps he should craft a new prov­ing ground…

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